Freedom Caucus backs funding bill, clearing way for House passage

Freedom Caucus backs funding bill, clearing way for House passage
© Greg Nash

The House Freedom Caucus has endorsed a deal with GOP leadership to support a short-term government funding bill, putting the House on track to pass the stopgap measure Thursday night and send it to the Senate.

The caucus endorsed the deal Thursday night, after warning they had the votes to defeat it earlier in the day.

While the deal sets the stage for House passage, it does not ensure that Congress will avoid a government shutdown Friday night.

Senate Democrats, supported by at least three Republicans, said they have the votes to block the initial House bill in the upper chamber. And the new changes, designed to attract conservatives, could alienate even more Senate Democrats.

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Still, Republicans are at least on track to approve a funding bill in the House, in hopes of putting pressure on Senate Democrats to back down. 

The deal came after Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsAirline CEOs plead with Washington as layoffs loom Trump reacts to Ginsburg's death: 'An amazing woman who led an amazing life' Trump carries on with rally, unaware of Ginsburg's death MORE (R-N.C.) emerged from a meeting in Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanKenosha will be a good bellwether in 2020 At indoor rally, Pence says election runs through Wisconsin Juan Williams: Breaking down the debates MORE’s (R-Wis.) office saying leadership had promised to have separate votes to help improve military readiness and address other national security issues. They would not be attached to the stopgap continuing resolution (CR), he added.

"Obviously, I would be recommending to our caucus, based on what I just heard, that we support the president in this particular initiative," he said.

Meadows outlined the contours of the deal to reporters just before the House floor vote Thursday night on the continuing resolution.

In exchange for Freedom Caucus support on the funding bill, Meadows said leadership promised to hold a vote within the next 10 legislative days on a defense spending bill that busts the spending caps for defense programs.

"Our major ask in all of this has been that we break this cycle that has held our military hostage," Meadows said.

A source familiar with the discussion noted that leadership had already made that commitment to House Armed Services Committee members a day earlier.

Leaders also pledged to "work aggressively" to whip an immigration bill authored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteNo documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden Press: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself USCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction MORE (R-Va.) and to bring conservative immigration legislation to the House floor in the coming weeks. Ryan and his top lieutenants, who have been publicly supportive of the Goodlatte bill, agreed to put together a team to help work the measure harder.

But the legislation has to be able to secure 218 GOP votes to get a floor vote. Meadows predicted that the measure that winds up being put on the floor will look like a modified version of the Goodlatte bill.

Some Republicans had taken issue with a provision in the Goodlatte measure requiring employers taking advantage of an agricultural guest worker program to use "E-verify" to ensure they only hire legal employees.

The proposals floated in the Freedom Caucus deal were offered by GOP leadership, but have the stamp of approval from President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden leads Trump by 36 points nationally among Latinos: poll Trump dismisses climate change role in fires, says Newsom needs to manage forest better Jimmy Kimmel hits Trump for rallies while hosting Emmy Awards MORE, according to Meadows.

"There are certainly a lot of subplots that I am not articulating right now that we did get, that... I will not be mentioning in terms of other things,” he said.

Meadows also asked GOP leaders to release a classified report from the House Intelligence Committee, according to a source familiar with the discussion, but his request was rejected on the grounds that they can’t skirt House rules.

The Speaker deferred to Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesSunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Sunday shows preview: With less than two months to go, race for the White House heats up Sunday shows preview: Republicans gear up for national convention, USPS debate continues in Washington MORE (R-Calif.) on the issue.

Bloomberg reported that the classified information in question was a memo put together by Republicans on the panel, which reportedly shows political bias in the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia.

Members of the Freedom Caucus, a band of roughly 30 conservative hard-liners, were previously withholding their support from the House GOP bill, despite a call from Trump into their meeting Thursday afternoon.

The White House said in a statement that Trump backed the House bill.

The House vote on the CR is scheduled for Thursday evening and the caucus warned earlier in the day they had enough opposition to sink its passage in the House.

However, Meadows had strongly suggested that he would accept the new deal.

"[Ryan] put forth a few things for our caucus to consider that would actually be beneficial to the military and our focus on the military needs going forward," Meadows said.

Meadows then urged the rest of the caucus to accept the offer. The group met in Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanSunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election House passes resolution condemning anti-Asian discrimination relating to coronavirus Republicans call for Judiciary hearing into unrest in cities run by Democrats MORE’s (R-Ohio) office to take a vote.

Updated: 8:41 p.m.